Sustainable Purchasing for Every One
It’s ok to go shopping and buy to your heart’s content, but we all have the option to make purchases that support environmental sustainability. This is true about everything from soap to cars, and the more informed you are the better you will be at making these decisions.
Manufacturers and retailers work hard to get us to buy their products, and they compete with other manufacturers and retailers for our money. How do they compete? The most common way is to lower the prices on their merchandise. But they will lower prices while still trying to maximize profit. If they are a publicly traded company, they also have stock holders to answer to, which increases the desperation to be profitable, especially in the short term.
In order to lower prices while still trying to maximize profits, something has to give, and that “give” is usually in the form of low wages for those producing the merchandise throughout the supply chain. It could also mean reduced quality in materials and parts or corners cut on safety and environmental standards. This all varies depending on the regulations of the country in which the manufacturing is done, as well as the ethics and due diligence of the business paying for the manufacturing. But the good news is that not all companies are only concerned with the bottom line.
Many companies producing products are taking steps in the direction of sustainability. One way these companies are making that effort is by meeting the requirements of a reputable third party organization like Energy Star, whose mission it is to help in this area.
These third party organizations allow companies to affiliate their good name with a product if certain standards and requirements are being met. The third party organization’s logo or symbol is displayed on the product which indicates to the consumer that particular measurements or standards have been met.
Most people are familiar with some of these third party organizations. Energy Star is probably the most recognized, followed by the recycle arrows logo. Other third party organizations whose standards you may not be familiar with are the Forest Stewardship Council, USDA Organic, and Fair Trade, just to name a few. Let's look at them a little more closely.
What is Energy Star?
ENERGY STAR is a collaboration between the EPA (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency) and the DOE (U.S. Department of Energy). Energy Star sets energy consumption standards for appliances and electronics. In order for appliances and electronics to have the Energy Star logo, they must meet these energy saving standards. 
What is Fair Trade?
Fair Trade is a nonprofit organization. Products with a Fair Trade logo represent that all those involved in bringing a product to market are compensated fairly. Fair Trade also works with farmers in developing countries to help build businesses that are sustainable and benefit their community. Fair Trade also works to help protect the environment, and they teach underprivileged communities how to work with and benefit from the free market. 
What is the Forest Stewardship Council (USA)?
The Forest Stewardship Council is a nonprofit that works to promote accountability in forestry all around the world. High standards are set for anyone seeking certification from FSC. These standards ensure that timber and the various products that come from timber were produced in an environmentally sustainable and socially responsible way. When buying paper or wood products, look for the Forest Stewardship Council logo. 
What is recycling?
Recycling is a bit of a different topic compared to the organizations mentioned. Recycling can’t be limited to one organization, although there are several organizations that have a large influence on the recycling industry. There are a couple different types of recycling we can consider when making a purchase. One type is products that can be recycled, indicated by the recycling arrows. The second type is products made from recycled materials. Generally, when a product is made from recycled materials, there is a label stating as such. If you purchase products that are recyclable and—better yet—made from recycled materials, you are helping to take reusable material out of the waste stream. This in turn supports the industries that use these recycled materials.  
What is USDA Organic?
Buying foods and products with a label of Organic is beneficial to the health of our planet and ourselves, although not all organically labeled foods and products need to meet the same standards. In order for food to be labeled USDA Organic, it is subject to stringent requirements. These requirements are: the food must have at least 95% organic content and have been produced in a natural way without added chemical fertilizers, pesticides, food additives, irradiation, genetic engineering, and sewage sludge. If the food meets these requirements, then it may carry the USDA Organic Seal. 
The organizations mentioned above are working to improve the health of our planet and its people. When buying products endorsed by these organizations, you in turn are supporting the health of the planet and its people.